Announcing... The 2020
Lackawanna Reads selection
One Book, One College | 10th Anniversary
Send Judah First: The Erased Life of an Enslaved Soul
By Brian C. Johnson
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A young girl’s life is shattered when she is stolen from her African village in a midnight raid. Ruthlessly torn from her family to be beaten, chained, degraded, and enslaved in a heartless world she can barely comprehend. The slave ledger at Virginia’s Belle Grove Plantation only reveals that Judah was purchased to be the cook, gave birth to 12 children, and died in April 1836. But, like the other 276 faceless names entered in that ledger, Judah lived. Brian C. Johnson’s important work of historical fiction goes beyond what is recorded to portray the depth, humanity, and vulnerability of a beautiful soul all but erased by history. For Judah, as Johnson notes, “did the ultimate—she survived. Not as a weakling, but resilient and determined.”
(Cover image via Amazon)
About the Author
Brian C. Johnson
(Image via the author)
Brian C. Johnson honors the struggles and accomplishments of the ordinary citizens who launched the Civil Rights Movement by committing himself personally and professionally to the advancement of multicultural and inclusive education.
He earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in English from California University of Pennsylvania completed his PhD at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Communications Media and Instructional Technology in December 2016. His research examines the role of mainstream film in the development of social dominance orientation. Johnson serves on the ministry team at Revival Tabernacle in Watsontown, PA where he is an associated pastor, youth minister, and leads the Kingdom Writers' guild. He is formerly a film reviewer for Christian Spotlight on Entertainment (www.christiananswers.net). Follow him on Twitter: @theREELBrian
On the Web: https://www.briancjohnson.net/
(Source: Hidden Shelf Publishing House)
How does Send Judah First differ from other books you have written?
I had never imagined writing historical fiction. Most of my writing and research, though, has centered around mitigating/overcoming the “tensions” of difference.
What was it about the historical figure, Judah, that captivated you?
In the opening pages of the story, you will read how I became acquainted with Judah. I live my life for significance. I want to be remembered—my life to matter to someone (other than my wife and children). I want to make an impact. It pains me to think there are so many millions of people who will go unnamed, unremembered, glossed over simply because someone decided to slap the label SLAVE on them.
What picture do you paint of Belle Grove Plantation in the early 1800s?
Simply put, Belle Grove was a farm. The Hites were “fortunate” enough (by 1800s standards) to own workers for that farm. The sad part of this history is that we do not know much of how things operated daily at Belle Grove. I tried to create a storyline that imagined what could have been—a married couple raising children and creating a family. Similarly, I wanted people to see that same humanity in Judah, Anthony, and their children.
What challenges did you face it writing Send Judah First?
The first things were internal struggles. As an avid reader of narratives of the enslaved, I was intimidated by Alex Haley’s Roots. That book turned TV miniseries stands at the pinnacle of slave narrative literature and media. I wrestled with not wanting to compete with Haley. Similarly, Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup has captured contemporary thought about plantation life. Northup and Haley intimidated me so and as a neophyte writing historical fiction, I wondered if I had the mustard to be able to tell the story.
Externally, there has been a lot of discussion in the modern press and on Twitter about how audiences are tired of seeing “black people in pain” [poverty, slavery, drug addiction and crime]. Thinking of this, then, in telling a slave narrative, what could I offer that is new? Therefore, I introduce a love story of sorts. Judah was forced to marry Anthony, perhaps for capitalistic reasons on the part of Master Hite, but, in time, she grows to love him and wanted to create a life with him (despite the circumstances). That is a side we never get to see. There was yet one more challenge I want to acknowledge—that being Judah herself. This is going to sound weird, but I know writers will get this. In the process of writing this book, I became so close to these characters. I believe Judah spoke to me, willing me to tell her story. There were many nights where I could hear her telling me to get up and write as she downloaded her stories to me. My wife can tell you that there were occasions I awoke to tell Judah to “shut up so I can sleep.” On the days when I took breaks, I felt like I was letting her down.
What do you hope readers take away from Send Judah First?
During my first visit to Belle Grove, I learned that “slave” was not an identity; it was a title. Judah (and countless others) were ENSLAVED—a condition forced upon them. I hope readers can learn to affirm the dignity and humanity of these purchased/kidnapped souls and to welcome them back from obscurity.
How can readers honor the lives of enslaved people who seem to be erased from history?
The enslaved were people too. We live in an era where tracing our genealogy and family ancestry are popular. Genealogy is more than DNA percentages, names, and dates. It is the stories, the medical histories, the traditions that can come alive—these are the things that make us who we are. When I started tracing my family ancestry, my mother told me to “let sleeping dogs lie” as she did not necessarily want me to unearth sordid details. I explained, those details are our truth and we should not hide from nor run from the facts. My hope for readers is that this hidden side of American history has fruit for our benefit today.
What is your personal favorite recipe from the back of the book?
I am a BIG fan of the glazed apples. Just earlier this week, I made a similar dish using fresh peaches. My sweet potato pie has earned recognition at our church’s annual pie baking contest, so I would say that one is a favorite also.
Links and Events
Virtual Author Visit
Date and Format to be Determined
NEW for 2020! LC Reads on Facebook
Join LC Reads Virtual Book Club on Facebook - search for the group with this exact title and LC Reads icon. This is a private Facebook group where you can discuss topics from our current book choice, watch staff/faculty recipe demonstration videos, and make suggestions for future LC Reads book choices.
Help Choose the 2021-2022 LC Reads Book!
LC Reads is looking for suggestions from you! What do you like to read, what are you interested in, what would you suggest to incoming freshmen for 2021–22? Please send your ideas and suggestions to RocheM@lackawanna.edu or KiehartC@lackawanna.edu by February 1, 2021.
What challenges did YOU face in reading
Send Judah First both internally and externally?
Responses to the essay prompt will be judged based on a demonstrated ability to think critically about the prompt, responsiveness to the prompt, and grammar. The winner will receive a prize of a $50 Visa gift card. Responses should be no longer than 500 words and can be submitted as an attachment to KurillaE@lackawanna.edu by the deadline of Thursday, October 29, 2020.
Additional guidelines for the essay:
- One-inch margins, Times New Roman, 12-point font, 500-word maximum, and double spaced
- Essays should be entirely original work responding to the prompt
- The cover page should include your name, title of the essay, Falcons email, and current cell phone number
This contest focusses on writing a poem because you want to capture a feeling that you experienced by reading Send Judah First or from participating in the author’s presentation/workshop. Just write whatever feels right. Only you experienced the feeling that you want to express, so why not share those feelings through poetry.
The winner will receive a prize of a $50 Visa gift card. Poems should be no longer than 1-2 pages long and can be submitted as an attachment to FanelliB@lackawanna.edu by the deadline of Thursday, October 29, 2020.
Guidelines for Poetry Entry/Poetry Rubric:
Poetic Devices: A minimum of four poetic devices are used (metaphor, simile, alliteration, etc.). The devices are used correctly (i.e. a metaphor is used as a metaphor).
Organization: The poem is very well organized. One idea or image follows another in a logical sequence with clear transitions.
Spelling, Grammar, Mechanics, etc.: There are no errors in the final draft. People or place names that the author invented are spelled consistently throughout. End punctuation, and correct punctuation in general, is used throughout the poem.
Creativity: The poem contains sensory details, figurative language, and descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has really used his or her imagination.
Title: Title is creative, sparks interest, and is related to the poem and topic.
Quality Product: The final draft of the poem is typed in 12-point, readable font and includes the student’s name in the upper-left-hand margin with Falcon’s e-mail and current cell phone number.
About LC Reads
Lackawanna Reads Mission Statement
The purpose of this program is to provide everyone in the college community with an enjoyable and positive reading experience, to promote life-long learning, to reinforce the message that reading is an integral part of the college experience, and to encourage our student body along, with faculty and staff, to read the same book and participate in open discussions across the curriculum.
Lackawanna Reads Objectives
- To introduce and create a united social and academic experience for incoming freshmen, returning students, faculty, staff, and administration… the entire college community.
- To encourage critical thinking skills for the entire student body by an open discussion on a common theme.
- To enhance academic and community awareness.
- To provide students with positive reading experiences.
Past LC Reads selections
2011 – A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
2012 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2013 – No Turning Back: One Man’s Inspiring True Story of Courage, Determination, and Hope by Brian Anderson with Davis Alan Mack
2014 – Saddle Up, Charlie: Charles Wysocki’s Journey from Gridiron Glory into Mental Illness by C. Terry Walters and Charlie Wysocki
2015 – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
2016 – I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
2017 – Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life’s Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age by Rob Shindler
2018 – UGH!?! Not Another Diversity Book! “When Multicultural Competence Meets a Real Reality” by Justin LaKyle Brown
2019 – Note to Self: Inspiring Words from Inspiring People by Gayle King